Allan Barry Luks, a leader in social change and advocacy, died on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts after a hard-fought battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 81.
Allan grew up in Rockville Centre, Long Island, the proud son of Joseph and Evelyn Luks. After graduation from Georgetown University Law School, he became a volunteer in the Peace Corps in Venezuela. In their program for lawyers, he established an ombudsman’s office for the city of Maracay. On his return to the U.S., Allan became a community action lawyer in East Harlem for the Children’s Aid Society. This experience led him to become an Associate Director for a $2 billion inner-city investment fund, created by the life insurance industry, the largest such private fund. He later became an executive officer for the New York office of RAND, one of the nation’s best-known think tanks.
For more than two decades, Allan has led major nonprofit institutions, receiving significant national and international recognition. He worked with the Alcoholism Council of New York, followed by The Institute for the Advancement of Health, focusing on how the mind affects the body, including the benefits experienced by helping others. Allan termed the phrase, “Helper’s High”—the powerful physical feelings people experience when directly helping others—to explain the real benefits to volunteers’ physical and emotional health. Today, this awareness has become internationally recognized as a way to recruit volunteers.
In 1990, Allan became the Executive Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, the oldest and largest mentoring organization.
Allan was also Founding Director and served as Director Emeritus of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership at Fordham University, the first center sponsored by both a graduate school of business and graduate school of social service.
Allan initiated and led the campaigns for the successful adoption of three laws, one of which saves lives, another that saves jobs every day, and one that protects children.
The requirement to post warning posters in New York City bars and restaurants about the risks of birth defects from drinking while pregnant. Passed in 1983, it led to the federal law on all alcoholic beverage bottles and cans.
Pioneered the research that led to the adoption of the New York City law that prevents discrimination against recovered alcoholics in employment and other areas.
Organized and guided more than 140 New York organizations to obtain passage of the Safe Mentoring Act, the first such law in the nation, that became effective in April 2007.
In addition to having written over 100 articles on social and health issues, Allan has authored four important books, two of which are credited with having significant national impact.
“The Healing Power of Doing Good”—recognized for influencing the way the nation’s volunteers are recruited and motivated, by emphasizing the health and stress reduction benefits experienced from helping others.
“Will America Sober Up?”—According to The New York Times Book Review, “this book could create a national ‘blueprint’ to use public policies to greatly reduce alcoholism.”
“Having Been There”—a collection of stories to understand the human drama about the different phases of addiction. “Having Been There” is more valuable and precise than most textbooks. – N.Y. Times Book Review
“You Are What You Drink”—”Think of alcohol as the new cholesterol in your life.” -Kirkus Review
Allan was predeceased by his parents, Joseph and Evelyn Luks. Allan is survived by his loving wife Karen, his devoted children, Rachel Luks Petraska (Nathan), David Luks (Rebecca), and two grandchildren (Benjamin and Elliot Luks).